Many people are unaware of the difficulty wheelchair-users face when maneuvering through snow. The news covers the story from many angles. Everyone sees people shoveling their cars out, plow drivers working over-time and people climbing over snow banks. However, people with disabilities are never shown getting stuck or stranded.
I am a wheelchair-user who lives in Evanston, Illinois. My city’s ordinance mandates that every business and residence shovel a path 36 inches wide on their sidewalks (including the curb cut, if the home or business is located at an intersection). Many cities have similar laws set in place to protect wheelchair-users, the elderly and even city workers. Unfortunately, not many people follow this law, as it is lightly enforced, thus causing wheelchair-users to freeze every aspect of their lives until the world around them thaws. The way things are done now, when the city plows clean the streets, the excess snow gets shoved into the curb cuts. I believe there has to be a better way.
The Tuesday, after my city’s most recent snowstorm, I attempted to make my way to work. My mother drove me in case I needed help navigating the snow-covered sidewalks. Unfortunately, each of my usual entrance paths (the curb cuts in the intersection) were barricaded by mounds of snow. My mother turned around and I worked from home.
The next day I tried again. This time I saw one curb cut cleared and thought I’d have enough clearance to wheel one block to work. I was wrong. After less than half a block I was stuck in the alley. It took my mother and one other good sumaritan to help push and lift me back on path. Fifteen minutes later, and after much frustration, I arrived to work.
On Friday, six days removed from the last major storm and after dozens of phone calls by me and my loved ones to the office of my alderman, the sidewalks were finally cleared.
I ask that we all join together to bring a voice to a problem that has gone unnoticed my entire life. I ask that residents and businesses alike contact their landlords and aldermen and demand that the sidewalks and curb cuts of cities throughout our country are routinely cleared so that wheelchair-users everywhere can move forward after the snow falls.
About the Author:
Nura is an experienced No Boundaries Trainer who aids individuals with developmental disabilities in bettering themselves as they strive to obtain independence through full-time work.